Pennsylvania to Use Old Voter Registry System in 2024 After Repair Contract Cut Short

Pennsylvania to Use Old Voter Registry System in 2024 After Repair Contract Cut Short


State abruptly ends contract with KNOWInK after it says the company failed to meet timelines and contractual standards.

The Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS) has ended a contract with KNOWiNK, the company tasked with modernizing the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) System which manages the voter registration information of more than 8 million Pennsylvania voters.

The SURE System stores the data of every legitimate, eligible voter, but there were problems with the system. The DOS hired contractor KNOWiNK, an election software company, to manage the system and replace it with the SUREVote System.

But the work was not getting done. It had become clear to the DOS that KNOWiNK would not adequately address “identified deficiencies” in the new SUREVote system, a Dec. 4 letter sent to every member of the Pennsylvania County Board of Elections said. The letter was sent by Jonathan Marks, Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary for elections and commissions.

Questions about the progress of improving the SURE System have routinely come up in Senate hearings and in the halls of the state capitol. The letter verifies the work is behind schedule. It describes how, over nine months, the DOS worked with KNOWiNK, trying to correct the course of the project, “including procuring expert mediation and project management services, bringing on the expertise of a chief modernization officer, and collaborating with our vendor to address Pennsylvania’s contractual project standards,” the letter reads. “This administration has made the successful completion and implementation of the SUREVote System a priority … Unfortunately, the Department has concluded that the vendor will not meet … timelines and contractual standards.”

The DOS will find another vendor to do the work. It will take time to write and approve a new request for proposals, vet, and hire a new vendor.

Motive for Fraud

The Marks letter stressed several times that the decision to end the contract will not affect the 2024 election.

But former State Rep. Frank Ryan believes there could be a motive behind the move. A longtime certified public accountant (CPA), Mr. Frank left his seat in the Pennsylvania House last year specifically to work on election security, believing he could have a bigger effect on public policy outside the legislature than from within.

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“If I were chair of an audit committee, I’d ask, is there is there an incentive on the part of the Democratic Party to kill the changes to the SURE System until they get to the next presidential election, because [President] Biden is behind in the polls with Donald Trump in 2024. I can’t make that allegation because we don’t have enough data, but it would be a hypothesis that I would want to run down because it’s an element of the consideration of fraud,” Mr. Ryan told The Epoch Times

In other words, there is incentive. In the accounting profession, when CPAs investigate, they look for “the triangle of fraud,” that is the opportunity, the incentive and pressure, and the rationalization to commit fraud.

SURE Trouble

The move to overhaul the SURE System came after a scathing report released in December 2019 by Pennsylvania’s then-Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, who identified internal control weaknesses in the SURE System related to input and maintenance of voter records. The audit revealed examples of potential inaccuracies, which the report said should be sent to counties to be investigated.

The report said DOS refused to cooperate during its investigation and that DOS denied auditors access to critical documents or excessively redacted documents, leaving the Auditor General’s Office unable to fully achieve three of the eight objectives it had been assigned.

The auditor was unable to assess the accuracy of the records maintained in the SURE System; unable to review security protocols of the SURE System; and unable to review the external controls and methodology for external audits.

The 2019 audit also identified potential areas of improvement needed related to computer security, information technology, general controls, and interference controls that it felt it could not mention in a publicly available report.

The audit found issues that it specifically excluded from the report “because of the sensitive nature of this information due to the security concerns over the commonwealth’s critical elections infrastructure. These conditions and our recommendations have been included in a separate, confidential communication, to DOS management,” the 2019 report reads.

The report made 50 recommendations to strengthen DOS policies, including addressing duplicate voters records and records of potentially deceased voters on the voter rolls.

Because of all the report revealed, the auditor general was “unable to establish with any degree of reasonable assurance that the SURE System is secure and that Pennsylvania voter registration records are complete, accurate, and in compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and related guidelines.”

This SURE System has been in continuous use since the report and is slated for use in again in 2024.

“At the beginning of this administration, several months ago, we decided to utilize our tested, accurate and safe legacy system for the upcoming 2024 election,” Marks’s Dec. 4 letter reads.

$3 Million Spent

The contract to build the SUREVote system to replace the SURE System had an unconventional beginning. The state signed a nearly $10 million contract with South Dakota-based software company BPro. The 603-page contract signed on Dec. 28, 2020, was to be valid through December 2024. But 42 days later, BPro announced publicly that it had been purchased by KNOWiNK. The Department of State filed an emergency procurement Feb. 2, 2021, requesting $3 million more for KNOWiNK to fulfill the BPro contract.

“BPro did not let the Dept. of State know about the acquisition until mid-December, after the agency contract was going through the signature process,” the request, signed by Mr. Marks, reads. ”Since BPro is implementing a new system for our Elections Bureau, it is highly time sensitive. It is the desire of the Department to have the deliverables started ASAP, and we would like to create the Emergency Purchase Order with KNOWiNK to pay for deliverables and monthly expenses until the new Agency Contract is in place.”

The request for additional money was denied.

Pennsylvania has made payments totaling more than $3.6 million to BPro and KNOWiNK since Feb. 2021, payment records from the Pennsylvania Treasury show.

KNOWiNK did not respond to a request for comment.

The company offers states and counties a selection of election related software, including TotalVote, described on the KNOWiNK website as a centralized voter registration and election management system that securely captures all election information.

It also provides ePluse, which monitors polling places on election day, tracking voter wait time and turn out. Another product KNOWiNK offers is Poll Pad, a set of tablets that replace the poll book voters sign at polling places.

“Poll Pad has replaced the outdated and inefficient paper model that is often the cause of long lines at the polls and inefficient election record keeping,” the KNOWiNK website reads.

The company is working in 36 states and Washington, D.C.

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